Question: “I’ve heard of something called informational interviews. What are they and why should I do them?”
Informational interviews are meetings you request to gather information and expand your network of contacts. What kind of information? The information you need to choose or refine a career path, learn how to break in and find out if you have what it takes to succeed. It’s the process of spending time (usually about 20-30 minutes, but sometimes much longer) with someone at a more advanced level in their career in a highly focused conversation that provides you with key information you need to launch or boost your career.
What is the goal of an informational interview?
There are several goals of an informational interview:
- Informational interviews are a terrific way to meet people in your intended industry and to make a positive impression. This is critical since networking is one of the most common ways to get a job. Meeting people in your field face-to-face gives you a better chance of being referred for a job opening later.
- An informational interview gives students and recent grads the change to ask questions about specific job titles and industries, which will help you decide whether a career in a certain field or at a specific company is right for you.
- For established workers who are looking to make a career change, an informational interview can help you determine whether there are additional skills or credentials you might need to develop to make the leap.
How effective are informational interviews?
While one out of every 200 resumes (some studies put the number as high as 1,500 resumes) results in a job offer, one out of every 12 informational interviews results in a job offer. That’s why informational interviewing is the ultimate networking technique, especially considering that the purpose of informational interviewing is not to get job offers. Job offers (and referrals) just happen to be a delightful side benefit to this valuable practice.
An informational interview is not the same as a job interview by any means, but it is probably the most effective form of networking there is. And networking is critical because of the vast majority of jobs are filled through networking than any other job-hunting technique.
And the great thing about informational interviews is that anyone can — and should — do them. For high-school and college students, they are a great way to learn about different career fields of interest. For college grads, it’s a chance to learn the best ways to break into the career field. And for established job-seekers, they are a way to explore possible career changes.
The minimum you will gain from conducting an informational interview is having a better understanding about a particular career and job. You may also obtain a critique of your resume. But you may also get someone who becomes a key advocate for you.
How can informational interviews can have a positive impact on a job search?
This is an informational interviewing experience of one of my students. Susan was interested in a career working in advertising, so she researched all the advertising agencies located in the city where she expects to live upon graduation. She then went to each company’s website and/or called each company to get the contact information for the agency’s president or chief account executive. She then contacted each one of these people to ask for an informational interview.
In one of her informational interviews, the agency president was so impressed with her, that he literally pulled out his address book — while she was sitting right there in his office — and emailed about 20 of his colleagues that worked in advertising and referred Susan as a candidate they simply must interview if they were currently hiring. From this one informational interview, Susan received five requests for interviews — and is currently expecting several job offers.
Learn more about informational interviewing, including all the nuts and bolts of why and how you should conduct them, in our Informational Interviewing Tutorial.
We also offer Informational Interviewing Do’s and Don’ts, as well as Informational Interviewing: A Powerful Tool for College Students.
This article is part of a series from The Career Doctor’s Cures & Remedies to Quintessentially Perplexing Career and Job-Hunting Ailments. Read more.
See a list of all the most common college, career, and job questions — and Dr. Hansen’s solutions.
Who is the Career Doctor? Learn more, read his current career column, or browse the column archives when you visit the Career Doctor’s homepage.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
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